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The first Children’s Newspaper in Dornapal

© UNICEF/India/2007
Exhibit of the first Children’s Newspaper in Dornapal.

By Siddharth Tripathy

Dornapal, Dantewada, November 2006: Malla and Arvind were brimming with pride. Their hard work had paid off. Right before them was the exhibit of the first Children’s Newspaper in Dornapal.

For a place like Dornapal which had attracted little media attention about the ongoing insurgency there, it was a rare achievement. For the seven child journalists from Balak Ashram Dornapal, it was a historic day.

In its repertoire of activities for the Child Rights Convention (CRC) celebrations, UNICEF had invited a group of artists from ‘Aawaz’ Lucknow. Schooled in different disciplines of theatre, journalism and painting, this team of innovative people had one thing in common – creativity.

Radically non-conformist in their approach the Aawaz folks zeroed in on action right from the moment they landed in Dornapal. Led by Mr. Adiyog and Arun Jaiswal, they made a rapid assessment of the camp and the schools, talking to children, their parents and teachers.

Sporting a camera before the shy tribals, Adiyog soon became a familiar sight in Dornapal and earned himself the title of ‘Photo-uncle’ among the children.

With three more groups simultaneously working together, Aawaz tried to figure out the children who were left out from active participation in the ongoing events.

Balak Ashram, Dornapal which had a different campus from that of the makeshift school-sheds became their point of focus. In a couple of days they identified a group of seven children who were to become child journalists. Malla and Arvind were proud to be included. Excited to be a part of something they only vaguely knew about, the children were bustling with energy as Adiyog took them out into the streets of Dornapal to interview people.

Soon they were interviewing doctors, teachers and traders of Dornapal. Helped to form a questionnaire by the Aawaz team, the children asked simple questions to their elders.

© UNICEF/India/2007
Appericiation for the first children newspaper

“Never before had we talked to our teachers like this” said one of the boys perhaps voicing the thoughts of other children there. 

At night, Mr. Jaiswal used to sit with the journalists for a group discussion. The children who had by then shed their inhibitions talked freely. The hostel room at the Balak Ashram resembled an editorial news room as Adiyog proof read their work and pointed out their mistakes.

Conscious about children’s short attention spans, Adiyog would cleverly introduce a new element in the course just at the right moment to keep them interested. The camera for photo-journalists was just such a strategic move. For the first time in his life Madkam Bhima held a camera in his hands and peered through the viewfinder.                                         

The children were out in the streets again with a lens to view their world. As the Aawaz team guided them with basic tips on composition and operation, the kids clicked a volume of candid shots, impressive enough to be displayed.
In barely five days, content for the first Children’s Newspaper was ready. On the 28th of November 2006, the Newspaper was on display before the district Chief Executive Officer Mr. Rohit Yadav and members of UNICEF.

The feat only served to demonstrate yet again, that children given the chance and the right environment, can speak for themselves and participate creatively in enriching their own lives.



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